Review: Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut (PS3/PSV)

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Title: Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut
Format: PlayStation Network Download (397 MB PSN & PSV Cross-Buy)
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer:  Jasper Byrne, Superflat Games/Curve Studios
Original MSRP: $12.99 (US),€12.99 (EU), £9.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut is available for PlayStation Network and PlayStation Vita. It is a Cross-Buy and Cross-Save title.
The PlayStation Network and PlayStation Vita downloadable versions were used for this review.

I want to keep this review of Jasper Byrne’s game, Lone Survivor: The Director’s Cut completely spoiler-free as one of the biggest selling points in this psychological survival adventure is that it’s your experience.

Gameplay:

lone-survivor-small-roundI woke up in my bedroom, it was still dark outside. For a split second I had forgotten about the terrifying things outside, the diseases, the monsters. I hadn’t left the apartment in ages but my food was running out, so I would have to leave soon. But I could hear those things outside and worse still in the hallway, the only thing stopping them from coming into my apartment was a flimsy door and my unwillingness to open it.

Am I the only one left? I thought to myself as I made my way to that flimsy door. I passed a dusty mirror on the way, a starving and exhausted version of myself looked back at me. How long has it been, I couldn’t remember. I have to get out, otherwise I think I may go mad. Slowly I opened the door.

That was the first few minutes of the game as I remember it, and the rest of the game plays out the same way. My character doesn’t become an unstoppable killing machine, I need to continually scavenge for supplies and listen to the sounds emanating from the darkness ahead. Caution is key, otherwise I won’t last long. It becomes my own adventure.

Jasper Byrne wants you to play this game alone, preferably in a dark room with no distractions and I can see from the very start of this game why he would want that. He even went to Sony and after some lengthy discussions, they allowed the game to not show any trophies during gameplay. They will be displayed only when the player goes to sleep, or on the completion of the game.

Horror is an underused genre in gaming, probably because it never quite works in most games, but I found Lone Survivor accomplishes more by simply doing less. Clever alterations to the screen during play, unnerving descriptive text, extremely fitting audio and surprisingly the old school pixelated graphics make the game as unnerving as it is.

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Lone Survivor is largely about choice. You can try to sneak through the game without firing a single shot, or kill everything in your path if you manage to scrounge enough ammo. You’ll get hungry and need to eat or instead just swallow one of those pills you found. Do you risk killing one of those things to see if there is anything worthwhile at the other end of the room? So many choices. Then there are the extras that Jasper himself added like new items and locations, alternate endings, a new enemy type and loads more dialogue. Even if you’ve played the standard PC or MAC version, this is worth checking out.

Sleeping in game is the only time your game saves, which means you’ll want to keep an eye on your physical and mental state whilst you’re exploring, which brings me to my only frustration with the game. When you die, you’ll effectively restart from when you awoke from your slumber, having to retread all those steps. So, do you explore at a good pace or just be so cautious snails could pass you by?

It also seems controls in a horror game have to be unnecessarily awkward, and this one is no exception. Although, after a time, I managed to get used to them with only a very rare mistake here and there.

Visuals:
To describe the visuals as simple old school graphics is doing this game an injustice. The best way I can explain the brilliant use of this almost 16-bit, old-school look is to briefly mention my early years of gaming decades ago, when you were lucky to have a character made up of forty or so pixels and no-one had ever heard of polygons and high-definition. You had to concentrate on the image glaring back at you on the tiny monitor, making those seven pixels your blocky character is holding into a pistol and the lone pixel falling to the floor a shell casing.

Even if Jasper Byrne did not intend it, the visuals are a marvelous achievement, making your subconscious do half the work, therefore making you feel more involved without realising it. But it’s not exactly like a game from my childhood, it has far too many fancy graphical effects and subtle uses of shadow and darkness layered on top of those pixels which make the whole experience look great, especially on the Vita. In fact I would have to say Sony’s little handheld console is the best platform for this game.  As if it had been made with the Vita in mind from day one.

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But if you only have a PS3 then you have a bit of a Catch-22 situation. You can adjust the screen size in the Select menu making it look more like the Vita version with a huge black border or keep it full screen and have it look slightly too pixelated with the text harder to read!

Audio:
The title music sets the quality level for which the rest of the game easily follows. A moody and chilling  score helps set the scene and builds just at the right times. I would definitely recommend the use of headphones as it not only significantly adds to the game, but also helps you know where the gruesome creatures are lurking.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
Was it a horrific waste of time or brilliant post-apocalyptic survival horror? I would have to go with the latter. It’s a brilliantly entertaining adventure which will have you hooked from the very start. Lone Survivor creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere which I could easily play several times over. Sadly the graphical style may put some people off, but they’ll be missing out on a brilliant game.

Score: 
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

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  • MJC

    This sounds really interesting, might pick this up when I clear a game off my Vita backlog.

    • ChazzH69

      It is one I will play again. Such a nice change to all the other games I own on the Vita.

  • JC

    This review has caught my eye. October is coming up and I think it’ll be fitting to play some games that fit the frightful atmosphere. I’ll definitely grab this later

    • ChazzH69

      Sounds like a good time to play this!

  • Keith Dunn

    This seems really great. Thanks for this review! I am looking at it in the store right now and thought…hey! Chaz’s reviewed that!

    • ChazzH69

      lol, thanks Keith.

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